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  • Atmosphere: If vegan, you’ve probably already heard of If Vegan. If not vegan, consider this your introduction. It’s a friendly, upstairs restaurant with a sort of scuffed IKEA vibe and a whole load of lovely, mostly healthy plates. To get in, find the little door on North Shaanxi, ten paces north of West Beijing, and head up to the very top floor. When we visited for a weeknight dinner, it was almost full of smiling, healthy older vegans and younger, v-curious hipsters. There's a bakery / patisserie counter by the entrance full of impossibly dairy-looking things, which you can presumably get to go. Also, it’s one of the only places I’ve found that does a good vegan version of meat floss, which is a selling point in itself.

    Food: You can get the abovementioned meat floss in the summer rolls, which also contain dragonfruit and come with a sauce the colour of grasshoppers. (It doesn’t contain grasshoppers. They’re not vegan.) We also ordered a lovely braised aubergine dish with a chilli kick, some not-too-slimy okra with a thin, soy-based sauce, a perfectly nice quinoa salad with fresh, steamed and roasted vegetables, and – regrettably – some purple whirls that reminded me of the food fight in Hook. The menu alleges that they’re made from purple sweet potato and coconut. They were the last thing left on the table, and were only really good for the novelty factor.

    Everything else was great, though. the food is fresh, well-considered and often imaginative. I'd go back to try more of the menu, not only because it's well-made but also out of curiosity. What do they top their vegan pizza with? I haven't yet found a good vegan cheese substitue in Shanghai, but I'd be game for trying whatever they've chosen.

    Service: The staff are sweet as hell, and very attentive to refilling your bai kai shui glass. Orders are placed through iPads, which have pictures and English translations for each dish. It's all very convenient.

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  • Yong Ping lane is a cool little space. A maze-like courtyard where you’ll find a number of eateries around every corner. One of these being Styx; a play on words to highlight the main style of cooking. The menu is a relatively novel concept where a large focus is on skewer-style cooking seen in many different countries rather than a single cuisine. In saying that it would be inaccurate to describe it as a fusion restaurant. There are no crossovers in flavours but rather a smorgasbord of skewers prepared in a variety of ways that stay true to their authentic form.

    Step inside and one can only assume interior designer was given a fairly simple brief. Tropical foliage and lots of it. You’ve got banana plants holding banana plants standing against a banana plant wallpaper. Throw in a chandelier or two and voila!


    Dishes of mention:

    Sichuan tofu skewers with the Asian slaw – Sichuan pepper marinade garnished with peanuts was excellent! Unfortunately prepared with a premarinated/ smoked tofu that was a little overpowering

    Chicken satay wrap – juicy chicken pieces laced with a flavourful Balinese satay sauce


    I still remember as a child my favourite food at a market being the satay skewers. The best ones had a nice charring on the outside and juicy meat that had soaked up all the marinade. I think Styx have delivered well on that front. An enjoyable experience where staff were attentive and helpful without being overbearing.

    Overall a simple but unique concept that brings together a number of street foods from around the work into one place. A great place for big groups including plenty of options for vegans and vegos.

     

     

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  • H2 is a cute, cosy 'Western style' cafe/restaurant located on the tree-lined Yongjia Lu, very close to the intersection of Wulumuqi Nan Lu. It's been here since 2010, a valiant effort in Shanghai years.

    The place is small, seating perhaps 12 people maximum downstairs, upstairs has a few more tables. For this reason, it can get very busy, with large groups gathering outside to wait during peak hours.

    The fare being served here is focussd on pizzas, pastas and sandwiches. I've been frequenting here for three years now, and would have to say the Lasagna is absolutely top-notch for the price. At 36 RMB, it's an absolute steal. As good as any I've had on various trips to Italy, it's worth trying this arugula heavy version. Lasagna is listed as one of their 'specialities', as is 'Curry Chicken Rice' as is 'Hungarian Beef Filet Goulash', which I've yet to sample.

    That's about as it good as it gets though, the other pasta dishes are nothing really to write home about. As for the sandwiches and wraps, same story, nothing special. I have seen a lot of people eating salads here, they could be worth a pop, but not by me.

    The pizzas aren't really pizzas, the bases being wafer thin, but they do have some merit. Priced between 28-38 RMB for a pizza for one, you can't really go wrong. There's 9 to choose from, the usual suspects, plus some left-field entries such as blue cheese and durian. Pepperoni does the job for me.

    Drinks-wise, they have a few bottled beers available, as well as Carlsberg on draught. Simple mixed drinks can be got, in addition to soft drinks and juices. Red and white wine are also on offer.

    This chilled spot is great for a cheap lunch or dinner, it has a loyal following and plays some laid-back tunes through the speakers during the day.

    Go for: Lasagna

    Avoid: Tuna Ciabattas/ Any of the wraps

    Good for: Casual meetups, quick lunch, cheap dinner.

    Cost: 61 RMB for person (1 Lasagna, 1 glass of red wine)

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  • Takashimaya has had a rough year in Shanghai. First, the high-end Japanese department store announced they were closing. I believe they actually closed for some time, and now all of a sudden, it’s open again.

    The only noticeable difference after the resurrection is that there seems to be much less people now. The whole department store was pretty much empty and there are many more workers than customers.

    The reasons to come here are its proximity to many international schools and there are good facilities geared towards kids. There is a free playground in the children’s section and there is also a Haba activity center that you can pay to enter. This is a great place to set up a play date and stay for dinner.

    Wan Liang is our favorite Japanese style barbeque at Takashimaya. The decoration is all a bit dated and simple, the tables are all really close together, but the quality of the food and service is really top quality. Basically, it’s just like you are in Japan.

    We had a pregnant friend in our group and the waitstaff offered to cook our food for us at another table so that the smoke wouldn’t bother her. I think that’s great service.

    The food was simple, but really high quality. We will be back.

    250 per person

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  • A lot of people don’t like restaurant in malls. But technically, Frasca is a restaurant in a hotel that happens to be in a mall. And it also happens to be one of the best new restaurants in Shanghai.\

    While you can access the hotel through Taikoo Hui Mall, once you get into the Middle House hotel, you will feel like you are a whole world away. Even though you are just a few feet from the largest Starbucks in the world, the well-designed landscaping has a resort feel as you walk through the lobby and outside to the restaurant.

    We booked a large party for 20 people in their private room. From start to finish the planning and service were top notch. Special thanks to Mark, the manager who helped us plan the event.

    We ordered a variety of courses from the menu. The pastas were really outstanding, and I also really liked the pisca. It’s like a pizza but super crunchy and loaded with toppings.

    Perhaps the branzino or sea bass baked in a salt crust was the only dish that we didn’t finish. This looked really cool when it came out and was served tableside. Nothing about it was bad, but it also wasn’t very special or unique like the other dishes above. The T bone steak was fantastic and was devoured before the plate had even cooled. The tiramisu for sharing was also worked great as a birthday cake and was the perfect end to the meal.

    Frasca should be everyone’s go-to for Italian food in Shanghai.

     

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  • There’s many obscure hole-in-the-wall restaurants that still occupy the rare corners of Shanghai which remains untouched by gentrification, and for some reason, A Ping Beef reminded me of just that, except for the fact that its tucked away not in some small alleyway, but in an inconspicuous lining of restaurants on the 5th floor of the Paris Spring Shopping Mall on Changshou Road.

    My companion and I were in the neighbourhood one afternoon and were looking for a quick place to eat. Although not very noticeable, I had a gut feeling there might be a good restaurant here and there inside the top floors of the small-sized Paris Spring. So up we went, and stumbled across this small joint. We were presented with a paper menu but everything is made to order via mobile. Our seats faced the open kitchen, and we watched in amusement as the young chefs hurried from one corner to another to prepare the meals. In what felt like less than 10 minutes, our hot and steam beef radish soup appeared on our dining table. The restaurant also offered a variety of soups with beef intestines, but being the conscious eater I am, I ordered the simplest thing on the menu, along with some sides of tofu and boiled qual eggs.

    Up on the side of the store, there is an abundant sauce and small sides bar, where customers can DIY the unique flavourings of their soup. One drink into the soup and I was in love. It was so aromatic and flavourful, with the beef and radish boiled to just the right amount of tenderness. It was the best soup dish I had in a while, and my companion agreed. Plus the efficiency that the place operated on was amazing. The whole set meal was only 32 rmb/person and I left with a wholesome satisfied tummy.

     

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  • The Godly restaurant brand has been around since 1922, and don’t they know it. The year is plastered all over the restaurant, like an incantation against rising rents and an increasing abundance of more interesting vegetarian options.

    I’m not knocking it; it’s hard to make something last almost 100 years. Look at the state of the EU after just 26. I’m just making the point because Godly has clearly enjoyed a lot of respect for a long time and – honestly – I’m not entirely sure why.

    They do mock meat, but it’s normally buried in some gelatinous sauce, like in the “beef” noodle dish we ordered. They promise spicy Sichuan dishes, but our tofu was saccharine and fangless. There are similarly disappointing curries, too, like the mushroom one we didn’t finish.

    Having said all this, it’s not a bad restaurant. The claypot vermicelli noodles were delicious, and the spring rolls – despite their gloopy, orange sauce – were nicely crispy. I’d also recommend the mushroom floss dish, too, although it was nothing like what I’d expected; it bears absolutely no resemblance to meat floss. In total, for four people with a beer, we paid around 400rmb.

    Godly is a good place to try classic Chinese vegetarian food. It’s worth a visit for the vermicelli noodles and the novelty of eating cruelty-free “eel”, among other things. There’s a fully bilingual menu, staff are helpful, and prices are fair.

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  • Shintori was one of the first nice Japanese restaurants I visited when I came to Shanghai the first time around 15 years ago. Given how restaurants don’t seem to make it past the first year very much in this town, it’s amazing that this place has now been open for 20 years.

    We were in the neighborhood so stopped by for an early dinner. The place was completely empty, and we were able to get a table with no reservation on a weekend.

    The décor is the coolest part of this place. The kitchen is completely open air and you can see the chefs working clearly from almost any table in the restaurant. There are also private(ish) rooms upstairs. The place is super dark and basically decorated like the secret lair of a super villain.

    I thought the food was overall very good. It is a higher end type place with higher end type prices, but everything was executed flawlessly and the presentation even on simple dishes was a nice touch. Even the fried chicken had a really nice garnish of a split pea with the peas still attached to the pod.

    If you want unique Japanese, you should go to Hiya. If you want a place filled with Japanese people, you should go to Gubei. But if you want to stay close to the area and have a nice meal, you should go here.

    About 400 RMB per person.

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  • La Mesa is part of the bustling Julu 758 complex located on Julu Road, near the Fumin Road intersection. I visited on a Friday evening with a friend, the place was absolutely buzzing, very busy with a great atmosphere on a Friday evening. Originally the plan was to go to the little Izakaya in the same complex, but the prices there are to be sniffed at.

    So we ended up at La Mesa, a cosy Mexican restaurant located in the corner of the food hall. We were lucky enough to get a couple of seats by the window, people watching and hopefully some good food were on the cards. Three beers were available on tap: Asahi, Vedett and Boxing Cat (Right Hook).

    Onto the menu, the main body of it is dedicated to tacos, 16 different varieties covering Fish, Vegetarian, Chicken, Beef and Pork. Priced at 28 RMB each, or 2 for 50 RMB, the value matched the variation. I went for the ‘Lengua (Beef Tongue)’ and ‘The Seoul Sister’ options, as did my mate. A mixed bag indeed. The former was a soggy effort, the quality of the beef was nothing to shout about, and there was something a little off about the texture. The onion and coriander didn’t add much flavour and the ‘spicy chili sauce’ wasn’t spicy at all.

    In contrast, ‘The Seoul Sister’ was a delight. Rated at 3 peppers on the Chilli-o-meter, I was expecting spice. Whilst it wasn’t as hot as expected, it did give just the right amount of kick. Tender pork belly, kimchi, red onion, ranch dressing and spicy hot sauce all combined to great effect, the result being a very tasty taco. The kimchi was the most powerful of the ingredients, and alongside the juicy pork, it made for a really unusual, yet exquisite taco.

    The flour taco shells underwhelming; corn ones are offered on request. Will go for that option next time. Other options on the menu include a couple of burritos, three different Cuban sandwiches, a few salads and some churros. A decent array of options for sides too, including nachos and empanadas. We went for the ‘Spicy Beef Cheese Fries’. These were pretty tasty, a good dish to share. Heavy on the cayenne pepper, the cheese could have been melted more.

    There were a few cocktails on the menu, although I didn’t look beyond the Margaritas, and rightly so. A wise choice, they delivered. Excellent effort. The staff were very friendly and diligent, would definitely return here.

    Go for: Tacos (Recommend: ‘The Seoul Sister’, Margaritas.

    Avoid:

    Good for: Casual meet up with friends.

    Cost: 440 RMB for 2 people (4 Tacos, 1 Side, 6 drinks)

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  • After months of waiting and renovation, there is finally a new Thai restaurant in LuJiaZui! The interior design of the restaurant made me feel like I was in a resort hotel in Phuket. There were a lot of greeneries and Halloween decorations all around the restaurant. The restaurant was very spacious and the outdoor terrace area was just perfect for this autumn weather.

    Good news for boyfriends and husbands! Have you ever gone on a date when the girl sits on the inner side of the table, on a sofa with multiple cushions and you are left with a hard cold wooden chair? Don’t worry because ALL chairs in POETS.Thai are nicely padded and cushioned to provide lower back and upper back support.  There are also extra cushions on the side in case you want extra comfort.

    The nicely padded chairs, together with the extra-long happy hour sessions and the live band, made it the perfect place to chill after work. You are even welcomed to join the live band if your heart desires. Oh, did I mention there are various weekday specials almost every day?

    We ordered tom yum seafood soup to start. There was a very wide variety of seafood selection including squid, shrimps, mussels and fish. However, I would think it was a tomato soup if it was a blind tasting. I was expecting the soup to be a bit spicier.

    We also ordered green curry with beef as a main course. It surprisingly came before the appetizer. Anyways, the beef was very tender but the curry was a bit too thick for my boyfriend’s likings because he liked to mix his curry with a lot of rice. I quite like the creamy texture of the curry as it came with an extra dash of coconut cream on the top. It really brought out the flavor of the curry. There were also some okras and mushrooms in the curry, it would be nice if there were Thai eggplants as well.

    We got a sour and spicy fish for a protein boost. The fish was very fresh and tender but it tasted a little too light compared to the tom yum soup and the curry. I felt like the fish and the soup was cooked completely separately because the fish meat was a bit bland despite all the spices and herbs on top of the fish. The key is to eat with a spoon so you can have a sip of the soup while you eat the fish meat. It was pretty good after all because the fish was really well cooked.

    In conclusion, there is finally a reasonable Thai restaurant in LuJiaZui area and I can see myself returning to the restaurant pretty often.

     

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SMARTREVIEWS

SmartReviews is SmartShanghai’s crack squad of amateur reviewers, eating their way around the city and writing about it. They have been chosen from a large pool of applicants and given a set of strict guidelines to follow to make sure their reviews are honest, informed and fair to both potential customers and the restaurants themselves.

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